Going back to the disc

I am one of the many who, when Netflix split the fees for streaming from those for DVD rentals, decided to go streaming-only. When I’d had both, the sixth disk for the first season of Glee languished by my tv set for months. It would probably still be there if they hadn’t threatened to make me buy it. So it was pretty clear to me that I wasn’t watching enough DVDs to make paying even a minimal amount worth my while. I said farewell to the couple of items in my queue — Gandhi, I think, and Neptune’s Daughter — and haven’t looked back.

Ok, I look back sometimes. Mostly I like the challenge of streaming only. Sure there are things I’d like to watch that aren’t available streaming, but that just gives me the chance to stretch my taste. Can’t stream Young Frankenstein? Maybe The Producers (1968) will do — and it will! It’s a great movie! (The original, natch, not that new-fangled one with Ferris Bueller. And by the way, Netflix’s replacement suggestion for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is Weird Science, not the same thing at all, so don’t be fooled by that.) Did you want to watch Sammy and Rosie Get Laid? Stream My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) instead, both great Hanif Kureishi/Stephen Frears films.

But sometimes substitutes won’t do. Here are a few reasons why you might want to splurge on a month or two of DVD rentals for the one you love:

M*A*S*H — It’s M*A*S*H. All 11 seasons. That’s got to be a ton of DVDs, all worth it. Okay, maybe not all. The early seasons are vastly different than the late seasons. Hawkeye and Houlihan are totally different people — and thank goodness for that. They would have been unbearable if they’d been the same all those years. Hearing about Harry Morgan’s recent death brought back how much I loved this show growing up. We didn’t really watch television in my house, with Sesame Street and M*A*S*H being the notable exceptions. (Also, weirdly, anything that was on Friday nights, which accounts for my familiarity with the Dukes of Hazzard.) My sister and I watched the show so faithfully we could identify which episode it was within seconds of it starting. And then we’d watch it all the way through anyway. I still have a huge crush on Alan Alda.

Revengers Tragedy (2002) — An adaptation of the wonderfully bloody and obscene Jacobean revenge play directed by Alex Cox and starring Christopher Eccles and Derek Jacobi, this is one of the best film adaptations of Renaissance drama out there, and I’m including Shakespeare’s films in the mix. It’s not easy to watch, but it shouldn’t be easy to watch. There’s murder and rape and grostesqueries and entirely too much glee and sadism for it to be enjoyable. Cox makes it into an indictment of our own times, with a decaying capitalism and apocalyptic landscape and everyone so numbed to life that sports and drugs and sex are all that are left. It feels like the end of the world and you should watch it. There’s no equivalent to it streaming, and there’s little equivalent to it on DVD.

Top Hat (1935) — There are other Fred Astaire movies streaming on Netflix, but there are none of his best ones: no Ginger Rogers, no Rita Hayworth, no Cyd Charisse. Most importantly, there’s no Top Hat and I’ve been dying to show this one to my kids, in part because “Cheek to Cheek” is one of the bedtime songs I sing and in part because it’s just wonderful. It’s got glamour, wonderful music, a dress with ostrich feathers, the hilarious Edward Everett Horton, and the most amazing dancing this side of heaven.

Charlotte’s Web (2006) and Babe (1995) — If you want to watch a great movie with your children about an adorable pig, there are, amazingly, two to choose from, and neither of them are streaming on Netflix! How can that be? We are big fans of the live-action Charlotte’s Web and so actually own the DVD (and incredibly have not destroyed it through endless rewatching) but my kids have yet to experience Babe and I’m beginning to feel like they must. Why watch one adorable pig when you could watch two?

Finally, I was going to end with something highbrow: Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (1927). I saw this film in college as part of my brief fascination with early German cinema. I haven’t seen it since, but it made a huge impression on me. It’s a montage chronicling a day in late-1920s Berlin and it’s a masterpiece. It’s not going to be in everyone’s taste. But if you fancy yourself a cinephile, or you want to impress someone who is, rent this. At the very least, it’s gorgeous. And as it turns out, you can watch it streaming! Not on Netflix, but on the Internet Archive, where the Silent Film collection is full of goodies, including this one. Watch and enjoy!

Sarah Werner has two sons, at least one job, and too many books to read. As a result, Netflix Instant is her constant companion. She blogs about books and reading and is known to a corner of the twitterverse as @wynkenhimself.

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